School Appoints Michael Collins and Jacob Fish as Named Professors

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New Endowed Positions — Vikram S. Pandit Professor of Engineering and Applied Science and Robert A. W. and Christine S. Carleton Professor of Civil Engineering — Part of School’s Strategic Faculty Growth Announced Last Fall

Feniosky Peña-Mora, Dean of The Fu Foundation School of Engineering at Columbia University, has announced two important new appointments: Michael J. Collins as the Vikram S. Pandit Professor in Computer Science, and Jacob Fish as the Robert A. W. and Christine S. Carleton Professor in Civil Engineering. Collins is joining Columbia Engineering from Massachusetts Instituie of Technology; Fish is coming from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. These two endowed professorships are the first of in a series of 20 new appointments that will, in effect, almost double the number of named professorships at Columbia Engineering.  This faculty expansion is part of a major initiative announced by Dean Pena-Mora this past fall.

“We are extremely pleased to welcome Michael Collins and Jacob Fish as outstanding new additions to our world-class faculty at Columbia Engineering,” said Dean Peña-Mora. “They are joining us at an exciting time for the School, as we move forward with our plans to expand our exceptional faculty. Professor Collins, an expert in using machine learning in natural language processing, and Professor Fish, a pioneer in multiscale computational science and engineering, both exemplify the superb quality of research and teaching we have here at Columbia Engineering. We are very grateful for the profound generosity of alumni like Vikram S. Pandit and the Carleton family who recognized that a large investment in Columbia’s outstanding engineering faculty is truly an investment in the future of the School.”

“I'm thrilled to be joining Columbia Engineering at such an exciting time,” said Michael J. Collins. “There is tremendous strength in computer science and related areas at Columbia, including a huge amount of talent in natural language processing, machine learning, and other areas of AI. I see Columbia as the ideal place to carry out my research and advance knowledge in this evolving and critical field."

“Columbia has outstanding faculty in multiscale mathematics, modeling, simulation, and experimentation,” said Jacob Fish. ”It has the critical mass to assume a leadership role in this emerging field and represents a natural fit for what I have been doing for the past 20 years. I see this as the next frontier that will transform scientific discovery and engineering design and I’m very excited to be able to do this at Columbia Engineering.”

Dean Peña-Mora added, “These two outstanding faculty members set the tone for the new recruits we will seek to attract to Columbia Engineering to fill all 20 of these new endowed chair positions.”

Michael J. Collins is one of the world’s leading researchers in statistical natural language processing (NLP), a field that uses machine learning to approach problems in processing text or speech. His work, which involves both machine learning and computational linguistics, has been extraordinarily influential. The overarching thrust of his research has been the use of machine learning along with linguistic methods to handle difficult problems in language processing, falling into three main areas: parsing, machine learning methods, and applications. Collins has built a parser that is able to obtain unprecedented accuracy levels and revolutionized the field of NLP: for the first time, a system was able to accurately handle enormous quantities of text in electronic form. His parser is one of the most widely used software tools in the NLP field. His development of new learning algorithms has enabled him to make significant advances in several language-processing applications: this work has greatly impacted speech recognition, information extraction, and machine translation. Collins, most recently a professor at MIT, earned his BA and M.Phil at Cambridge University and his PhD at the University of Pennsylvania. 

A groundbreaking researcher in multiscale computational science and engineering, Jacob Fish has spent much of his career, first at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and now at Columbia Engineering, working at the forefront of this emerging discipline that bridges the gap between modeling, simulation, and design of products based on multiscale principles. His research encompasses a wide variety of science and engineering disciplines, from investigating the structural integrity of mechanical, aerospace, and civil systems, to electronic packaging, nanostructured material systems, biological systems, and energy absorption systems. Together with his Columbia University colleagues, and in collaboration with the City College of New York and New York University, Fish is forming a new interdisciplinary center, Multiscale Science and Engineering Center (MSEC). MESC, whose mission is to develop the basic science needed to revolutionize engineering practice and scientific discovery based on multiscale principles, will bring together universities in New York City, drawing upon their strengths in modeling, simulation, and experimentation across multiple spatial and temporal scales. As director of MESC, Fish hopes to promote ongoing research in multiscale science and engineering, develop new synergies, and pursue new funding opportunities — “this will revolutionize the way engineering design and scientific discovery are conducted in the 21st century.” Fish earned his BS in Structural Engineering and MS in Structural Mechanics from Technion -Israel Institute of Technology,  and his PhD in Theoretical and Applied Mechanics from Northwestern University.

Columbia Engineering

Founded in 1864, Columbia University's Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science offers programs in nine departments to both undergraduate and graduate students. With facilities specifically designed and equipped to meet the laboratory and research needs of faculty and students, Columbia Engineering is home to NSF and NIH funded centers in genomic science, molecular nanostructures, materials science, and energy, as well as one of the world’s leading programs in financial engineering. These interdisciplinary centers are leading the way in their respective fields while individual groups of engineers and scientists collaborate to solve some of society’s more vexing challenges.


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